The Appearance of the Rural in China's Tourism
State-led programs for rural development through tourism serve to reaffirm and reinstate rural spaces as the ideal periphery, a desirable and attractive ‘decorative edge’ to the modern, contemporary Chinese nation. By tracing the ways in which tourism development both centralizes the necessity of modernizing rural regions for the nation as a whole while simultaneously emphasizing the otherness of rural communities in order to promote them as tourist attractions, I seek to understand how the rural appears in Chinese tourism as a central concern of the state, and yet the approach of development programs has been to characterize what is rural as evermore different and distant in order to satisfy perceived tourist desires. The focus of the chapter is the examination of two publications that deal specifically with the formation, significance, and regulation of ‘the rural’ in tourism development: a widely circulated statement from 2006 by the chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, Shao Qiwei, and a guidebook on operating rural tourism businesses by the China Agricultural Press.My analysis considers the practices and ideas suggested by these publications in light of ethnographic observations from two rural ethnic tourism villages.
tourism, rural development, identity, appearances, distancing